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Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach, Level 5A Set Review by Courtney Larson

Virtual Manipulatives CD-ROM
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02116

Math In Focus: The Singapore Approach is a math program for kindergarten through 5 th grade. Singapore math has a reputation for focusing on the how and why behind math concepts, and Math in Focus is an attempt to align this methodology with math standards in the United States. I received the Level 5A set, which includes a Teacher's Edition, a Level 5A Textbook, and a Level 5A Workbook. I also received the Level 5 Assessments and the Virtual Manipulatives CD-R om .

Level 5A is designed to be used in the first semester of fifth grade. There are seven chapters in Level 5A, and each chapter is devoted to a single topic: "Whole Numbers," "Whole Number Multiplication and Division," "Fractions and Mixed Numbers," "Multiplying and Dividing Fractions and Mixed Numbers," "Algebra," "Area of a Triangle," and "Ratio." The textbook is a nice, full-color, hardback edition. There is some instruction to the student in the text, but lessons will most likely need to be presented from the Teacher's Edition. The Teacher's Edition is oversized, and it contains reduced copies of the student textbook pages (with answers filled in), along with teaching notes and objectives. The lesson objectives are easily referenced, and they walk you through how to teach the lesson. There are practice problems in the student text, and the Teacher's Edition lets you know at what point in the lesson your student should complete these problems. There are only a handful of practice problems in the text, but the Workbook contains additional black-and-white practice for each lesson. The Teacher's Edition also includes reduced copies of the worksheets with answers.

The Assessment 5 book contains pretests and chapter tests for each chapter for both Level 5A and 5B. It also contains two benchmark assessments, a test for mid-year, and a final test. The benchmark assessments is a cumulative test for chapters 1 through 4 in Level 5A, and then chapters 8 through 10 for Level 5B.

Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach relies on manipulatives and diagrams to illustrate concepts when they are introduced. Traditional manipulatives can be used, or you can purchase their CD-R om of Virtual Manipulatives. I received the Intermediate level for Grades 3 through 5. This CD-R om contains virtual manipulatives for ten categories: counters, base-ten blocks, number lines, number charts, graphs, fractions, geometry, measurement, algebra, and probability. The student can choose from different activities within each category. For example, in the fractions category, the student can show, compare, add, subtract, multiply, use proportional reason, or explore fractions. The student can also choose to use bars or circles to show the fractions.

Overall, I think Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach is a strong math program. It is a bit on the expensive side for an elementary program; Level 5A is $123.90, and Level 5B is also $123.90. The assessments are an additional $37.45. The lessons are clear, and if both the textbook and workbook are used, I think there is enough practice. The color in the textbook will appeal to many students, and the Teacher's Edition is well written and easy to use. While I think the Virtual Manipulatives CD-R om is a neat idea, I prefer traditional hands-on manipulatives to demonstrate math concepts. At first glance $109.15 for the CD-R om seems expensive, but when I remembered how much all the different traditional manipulatives would cost if purchased individually, it seems more reasonable. I think it's a great option if storage space is an issue or if you have a student who loves to do things on the computer. If you are in the market for a math curriculum, I would absolutely give Math in Focus: The Singapore Approach a good look.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011